The Gavrilo Princip Sandwich

It could be argued that the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is right up there with the most important events in history, so why is it that there are so many conflicting reports on what actually took place in Sarajevo, on the morning of the 28th June, 1914?

Misinformation about the assassination may have been reported as early as the evening of the shooting itself, when a photograph of Gavrilo Princip being arrested and taken to the police station, following his murderous act, was circulated to newspapers around the world.

The front page of the Austrian magazine “Wiener Bilder” on the 5th July 1914

Except the photo in question almost certainly does not show Princip being arrested, but rather a Mr Ferdinand Behr, who was in fact an innocent bystander who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And then there are all the supposed facts surrounding the open top motorcar that the archduke and his wife, Sophie Chotek, were being driven in, along the Appel Quay. We know the car in question was a 1910 Gräf & Stift Double Phaeton, which was a luxurious limousine popular with the Austrian aristocracy at the time. BUT was it really a cursed car? An automobile, which saw owner after owner meet with violent deaths.

And who exactly was driving the archduke on that morning? Was it Otto Merz, the award winning motor racing driver? Or perhaps Franz Urban? Or was it the Czech chauffeur, Leopold Lojka? And whoever the driver was, why did he go the wrong way, turning right down Franz Josef Strasse, instead of heading back along the Appel Quay? Had the drivers in the motorcade not been told about the changed itinerary? Or was it a case of them misunderstanding the new instructions because of language difficulties?

Leopold Lojka was the chauffeur

There are many more contradictions surrounding the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, including the details of his death, the mood of the crowd towards him and even the whereabouts and actions of each of his would-be assassins.

However, no single detail of the assassination courts more controversy than the Gavrilo Princip Sandwich. The notion that the shot that sparked the First World War and changed the course of the twentieth century only came about because Princip happened to be feeling a bit peckish and had popped into Moritz Schiller’s Delicatessen for a bite to eat.

The fate of the world resting on a series of unlikely events makes for a great story and to a certain extent this is what actually happened, with the archduke’s car taking the wrong turn down Franz Josef Strasse, and then stopping to a halt outside the aforementioned delicatessen. But the idea that Princip himself was only there, because he had just purchased a savoury snack, is perhaps a little too far fetched.

And let’s consider Princip’s choice of snack for a moment. I am sure that nowadays it is quite possible to go into a store in Sarajevo and buy a cheese sandwich, if one wanted to, but would that really have been possible back in 1914? Although the sandwich was already extremely popular in Great Britain by that time, the Bosnian bread based nibble of choice back then would most likely have been a Lepinja flatbread or a cheese flavoured Bosnian pita pie.

A crowd gathers around an advert for a strange new bread-based snack available at Moritz Schiller’s Delicatessen

But let’s just say, for arguments sake, that Moritz Schiller was making and selling sandwiches on that fateful day back in 1914; where is the evidence that Gavrilo Princip actually bought one.

Well, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence whatsoever. Certainly Princip, at his trial, made no mention of going and buying a sandwich, in fact he merely states that he was in the vicinity of the Latin Bridge. Likewise, none of the eyewitnesses who were questioned at the trial, each of whom witnessed Princip shooting the archduke and his wife outside of the delicatessen, make any mention of the assassin eating anything at all, let alone a sandwich.

In fact, up until the end of the twentieth century, it seems that nothing had been written about the Gavrilo Princip sandwich, which is why it is quite incredible that by 2010 it had become firmly established as part of the accepted version of events that took place on the 28th June, 1914, even being taught at British and American schools. So where exactly did this sandwich come from.

It would appear that the idea of a sandwich being the reason Princip was in the right place at the right time for the assassination, did not come from a witness statement, or a court transcription or even a history book, but instead from a Brazilian novel.

Twelve Fingers: Biography of an Anarchist by Jo Soares follows the exploits of anti-hero, Dimitri Borja Korozec, a hapless, twelve-fingered, would-be assassin who encounters such historical figures as Mata Hari, Al Capone, Marie Curie, Franklin D Roosevelt and of course the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. During the part set in Sarajevo, the book’s protagonist briefly meets Princip coming out of Moritz Schiller’s Delicatessen eating a sandwich.

The English language version of this amusing novel was published in 2001 and it seems this is the very first time the notion of a Gavrilo Princip sandwich first appeared in print. However, surely the history teachers of the noughties would not have been basing their lessons on a book, which claims to be a “burlesque smorgasbord of international high jinks”.

No, almost certainly not, but it may or may not have “inspired” a documentary about the assassination, which was broadcast just two years later. The Assassination of Franz Ferdinand was the subject of the second episode of a British documentary television series called Days That Shook the World, which premiered on BBC Two, in September of 2003.

In the documentary, the narrator states “Gavrilo Princip has just eaten a sandwich and is now standing outside Schiller’s delicatessen on the corner of Franz Josef Street”.

Ironically, apart from the inexplicable sandwich mention, and of course the obligatory Gavrilo Princip getting arrested photo gaffe, the Days That Shook the World documentary is probably one of the most accurate portrayals of The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand I have ever seen.

Which is probably why it ended up being watched in schools by a generation of pupils on both sides of the Atlantic; and, as a result, why the Gavrilo Princip Sandwich became a part of history, albeit almost a century after the assassination itself.

Why not check out The Gavrilo Princip Sandwich – Worksheet and Crossword Activity Pack

And Why Not Read a Fictional Account of the Assassination?

A great way to learn more about what happened on that fateful day in Sarajevo is by reading A Point In Time, a prequel novella to the Time Travel Historical Fiction series, Time Band. Historical novels and novellas can be a great way to delve deeper into a particular event—providing the story is based upon the facts, of course.

It is worth noting that the entire content of the History Just Got Interesting website is based upon the exhaustive research that was carried out for the novels and novellas which make up the Time Band series, so you can rest assured that Time Band – A Point In Time provides an accurate account of what took place.

And you will be able to find out the truth about the Gavrilo Princip Sandwich once and for all!

You are able to purchase a paperback or hardcover edition of the novella from the Books section of the website, but you are currently able to get the eBook edition for FREE.

Time Band - A Point in Time Novella: Hardcover
Time Band – A Point In Time

A Point In Time

While testing the time band, a new form of interactive time travel, Adam Amicus is transported back to Sarajevo, on the 28th June 1914. And as a sixth-form pupil at Time Immemorial High, Adam knows full well that a time historian cannot change the past—especially today of all days.

But the time band has changed all the rules, and as Adam soon discovers on his maiden trip, there will come a point in time when difficult choices must be made for the greater good.